November - 2015 - issue > CXO Insights

Building an Innovative Work Culture: 3 Ways to Foster and Grow A Startup

Kamala Parvathanathan
Country Head-Numerify India
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Kamala Parvathanathan
In Bangalore these days, the energy surrounding startups is palpable and almost inescapable. There is an eagerness in the air to get a piece of the action and employees are eagerly looking for opportunities to join startups. This fast-paced environment can often make my days feel like a white water rafting expedition.

Suffice it to say, there's a lot of excitement around the opportunity to to innovate, create new solutions and chase after tight schedules and high growth plans. After all, startup teams are synonymous with high performance, agility, focus, and commitment. But the challenge is that these goals have to be achieved by a set of employees who have mostly not worked together before and are often steeped in other company cultures – which might not be conducive to this fast-paced environment. Under such circumstances, it is critical for companies to have a cohesive approach towards enabling a positive culture with work-life balance. Here are a few ways we've endeavored to do this at Numerify:

Creating the Environment
Most startups do well on the first few levels of the hierarchy of work-life needs. Some may offer competitive remunerations and benefits. Others clamour to be the company with the fun, cool factor. At Numerify's Bangalore office, we have an enclosed area with a ping-pong table that employees happily take advantage of to unwind. We host get-togethers every Friday to celebrate birthdays, weddings, and new babies as much as we would product releases. An IPL cricket game between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore had our employees all painted in team colors and lining up to cheer their teams, despite the deadlines.
However, while these are great ways to foster an environment conducive to team building and letting off steam, that alone is not enough. Employees also need to see a positive, ongoing engagement on a day-to-day basis that is driven both top-down and bottom-up.

Fostering Performance
In today's work environment, Millennials and those who come from a product development background expect a modern work culture. Our flexible work hours that take into consideration the tyrannical Bangalore traffic as well as individuals' energy levels, for example, are the norm at Numerify. We organize sessions with specific goals in mind, be it based on principles of appreciative inquiry, theatre-driven reflection, or a session on respecting diversity – as Numerify is a highly diverse company. Performance feedback is also constructive and continuous. We take breaks to discuss topics that are of long-term importance to the individual. It is hard to take a day-long break when deadlines stare at you, and when as a young company, you have to deliver excellence. It is a critical, yet delicate act of balance that we strive to achieve.

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